January 20, 2010
Doctor: More men seeking mental health services during recession
Trend affecting men age 55 and older who are losing jobs
Hinsdale – A record-breaking numbers of men are seeking mental health seeking services, according to a local psychiatrist who believes the trend is a direct result of the current recession. Dr. Akram Razzouk, chairman of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s psychiatry department and medical director of mental health services, has seen an increase in older male patients in the past 12 months.
“In 25 years of practice, I have not seen the economy this bad for so long,” Razzouk said. “Men are being hit pretty hard because the job loss often hits at the core of their identity.”
Compounding the situation is that men who are taking the biggest hits – male workers 55 and older in traditionally male-dominated jobs such as construction, manufacturing and finance, according to USA Today – are also facing loss of health insurance and fears they might never work again.
“Most men can survive a few months of unemployment, but when it lingers past a year and into the second year, that’s when I see their spirits plummet,” Razzouk said.
Razzouk’s colleagues also have seen an uptick in male patients age 55 and older. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, of the 14 million Americans who suffered a depressive event last year, 6 million were men. Recent studies have shown that up to one in seven men who become unemployed will develop a depressive illness within the following six months. Men with a genetic predisposition to the disease have greater risk, Razzouk added.
It’s not only American men who are feeling the mental health effects of this current recession. In May, the Daily Mail reported that 2.7 million men in the United Kingdom are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress.
Locally, Angela Adkins, executive director for the DuPage chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), said more men and women are undergoing treatment for depression and anxiety and that is unquestionably due to the recession.
“Before, many of these people were able to pick themselves up and get on with things,” Adkins said. “Now, some of them are taking medication for the first time in their lives. We’re also seeing a lot of people who were already struggling who are losing their jobs and watching their homes go into foreclosure. There are situations where people are literally out on the streets or living in their cars.”
However, treating men for depression or anxiety can be tricky. Women, in general, are more accustomed to asking for help. Men, on the other hand, often require the urging of a concerned friend or family member before seeing their primary care physician. Even then, the men might only address physical complaints, such as heartburn, chest pain or high blood pressure. In other cases, spouses might demand they seek help because they are yelling at the kids, avoiding social situations or refusing to get out of bed. Persuading men to ask for assistance often is difficult, Razzouk said.
“Because the general feeling among men is to remain strong and not to cry nor talk about their feelings, getting them into therapy is quite a challenge,” Razzouk said.
That might be why presenting symptoms of depression in men are different from those in women, who tend to cry, experience changes in appetite and lose interest in pleasurable activities. With men, depression can be masked by anger, irritability or substance abuse. If they wait too long, the first clue can be suicidal behavior. Women attempt suicide more often then men, but men are four times as successful.
“This issue is more than just getting another job,” Razzouk said. “It’s about saving men’s lives.”
Once men comply with treatment – which can include medication and cognitive therapy to change faulty thinking – the recovery success rate climbs to 80 or 90 percent, Razzouk said.
For more information, call Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s physician referral line at 630-856-7500.